Liberty Station’s Malashock Dance looks ahead to its next steps

Malashock Dance performers appear at the Without Walls Festival in April at the Arts District at Liberty Station.
(Courtesy of Malashock Dance)

The dance company searches for an artistic director to replace founder John Malashock, who plans to share the duties for a season.


After more than 30 years, Malashock Dance company has begun a campaign to find a new artistic director while it continues to evolve its legacy of performance and service.

John Malashock, who founded the organization in 1988, is a hard act to follow. He has choreographed more than 100 modern dances and collaborated with many local and national arts organizations.

Dancer and choreographer John Malashock (center) founded his dance company in 1988.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

He is known for creating work for companies in other states and for inviting emerging choreographers to work with Malashock dancers, an effort that has helped make San Diego and Liberty Station, the company’s headquarters in Point Loma, entertainment destinations.

“Times do change,” said Malashock, who will share artistic director duties for a season and mentor his chosen successor.

“Working for 47 years in the professional dance field offers an unbelievable repository of information and experience to draw upon. I don’t need to articulate that — it comes out in the work and in my perspective. But there is a saying: ‘A person is who they are today, not who they were yesterday.’ It’s something you have to pay attention to.”

New horizons

Last summer, Malashock traveled to Rhode Island to collaborate with Miki Ohlsen, artistic director of the Newport-based Island Moving Company.

He choreographed a dance titled “Swells” and invited a group of Island Moving Company dancers to perform recently in “Horizons,” a program of five new works introducing new choreography and bringing dancers from different disciplines to San Diego.

“As we get older and the dance field stays perpetually young, it creates a divide,” Malashock said. “There’s a need to look at things in a different way — to really connect with the dancers and to offer them something they wouldn’t get elsewhere.”

Justin Viernes, a Malashock company dancer since 2011, performs at the Without Walls Festival in April.
(Courtesy of Malashock Dance)

Justin Viernes, a Malashock company dancer since 2011, said “John is a storyteller, and his choreography interprets different relationships between people and communities.”

“He just throws an idea out there to see what happens. That’s why I like his artistic direction. I’m allowed to express myself. ... I take everything in and run with it. I gave up a lot in my personal life to dance, and I was willing to be fearless. It’s one of the reasons John and I have a good artistic relationship.”

Viernes said that in today’s dance climate, it’s important to be well-rounded.

“Younger dancers are looking for companies that will push them, not just as a dancer but stylistically and with more content creation,” he said. “They are more about social justice and work that has something to say.”

Executive Director Molly Gynn Puryear said she is pleased with the way the company is evolving and hopes audiences will become more aware of the contribution Malashock Dance has made to the community for more than three decades.

“I’m unbelievably enthusiastic about what is happening at Malashock Dance right now,” she said. “What folks may not realize is that our school and outreach programs have served as a resource for dancers, students, schools and communities throughout San Diego. We are thrilled to be on the precipice of one of the most important phases of the organization’s growth.”

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